When payments online were unheard of, Instamojo decided to make online payments simpler. The story of discovering online payments problem is unique. Even unique is the fact that he met his co-founders on Twitter. Akash Gehani talks about finding the payment problem, how they addressed it and finally scaled to on-boarding a million merchants. Listen to Akash of Instamojo talk about scaling to a million merchants and much more.
Akash is a focussed entrepreneur. In this episode, he gets candid about building the company, the co-founder dynamics and about the sinusoid, high and lows, of starting up.
Here some unique perspectives from the interview:
And if I go back to about 2011, or 2010, you know, when the germination was happening, internet was coming in, technology is going to be like a tsunami, for businesses out there? How can we help them adopt technology and grow their business? And it was within this framework? How can we help small businesses is the way we got thinking, and we tried a few things.
The different ways to look at impact. I always look at the anecdotal pieces that we keep getting on a day to day basis. But yeah, just to give you a sheer sense of, what scale are we at? Right? And I don’t think we had a great scale. I mean, like the road is way too long, there is a lot more to do. But today, we have half a million merchants on Insta Mojo. Right?
It happened because we actually felt that as a problem ourselves. So during the course of this journey and even prior to this Sampad used to take you to do video interview is like we have a podcast today. He used to video interviews with few folks and one day we were discussing it right, can you monetize this, and we figured no we can’t. I would love for someone to pay for it to be able to watch this video, but how do we do that? How will I collect payments for it? And we said actually there is no option for this.
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Early Days Of Instamojo
It took a long time. I think in the earlier days, I didn’t, at least for the first couple of years, while things kept growing, it just wasn’t exciting enough. The bigger numbers wasn’t born that great, or in the pure terms of percentage growth, it just wasn’t exciting enough, like we kept looking at by why its not working, why it’s just not working. Right. Maybe it’s an assumption, right? We figured if we do this, and there’s always this dilemma, right, when you’re building a product, let’s add these one or two features that will help us with a lot of traction. And you know what, you go back you build those things and its not working out. And it’s always that cycle, right? Yeah, maybe the market needs these things. Let’s build that.
We actually seen this journey in matter of few years. It’s been really exciting when we look at powering some of these businesses right especially when you see them going from like I said, from a caterpillar to full-fledged butterfly today.
Akash Is Surprised
I think the fact we are still here is a surprise, but actually speak, you know, five years from now and will still be there. It won’t be a surprise then because I think it’s not that we figured out something we always figure things out. We’re always learning from our own experiences and from others.
While highs and lows are a part of the entrepreneurial journey, Akash believes in constantly learning from experience to scale more.
Check out this other amazing Fintech Scale Story: Zerodha's Nithin Kamath: Season 1, Episode 2
Here's what the word cloud from the episode looks like:
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Akash Gehani, Krishna Jonnakadla, Nida Sahar
Krishna Jonnakadla 00:01
This is Maharajas of Scale, the podcast where we go behind the scenes and talk to founders who are demolishing the myths around building and scaling a big business in India. These are the stories that have shattered the assumptions around Indian consumers and are changing the game completely. I am Krishna Jonnakadla, serial entrepreneur, co founder of FLIT the fashion located in town and startup mentor bringing you these stories. Hey everyone, this is Krishna Jonnakadla from Maharajas of Scale. Today we are going to talk to or rather brave you're speaking to Akash Gehani of Instamojo, a company I greatly admire for the kind of innovation that they are bringing out in the FinTech space, Akash Welcome to the show.
Akash Gehani 00:46
Krishna Jonnakadla 00:47
Instamojo is a very interesting company. From my time in the US. I have seen square, and stripe change the payment landscape, and I've heard this from Sampat in one Hhis talks that a lot of people think about other enablers in the ecosystem, but payment is a huge enabler, it usually is considered the last minute, but I believe if it is architected properly and looked at properly, it usually is the first mile, because if I'm assured that I'm actually paid, then a lot of friction in commerce actually gets out of the way. What is your take on that?
Akash Gehani 01:21
Yeah, totally, totally agree with that. So to give you a just off, you know, via payments, and you know, how we got to payments, right? Nobody grows up thinking about, you know, what payments is. So, you know, how do you really solve it or make it simple? I don't go right. So some, myself or the founding team, right. One thing that we've always excited about is how do we help small businesses and you know, we always believed that install mo sorry, India is a land of small businesses that are making billions and billions of them. And if I go back to about 2011, or 2010, you know, when the germination was, you know, what's happening in today's economy coming in technology is going to be like a tsunami, for You know, businesses out there? How can we help them adopt technology and grow their business? And it was within this framework? How can we help small businesses is, you know, the way we got thinking, and we tried a few things. So before before Instamojo, we tried a couple of things which didn't work out, right. We spent a few months maybe a little more than a few months on couple of ideas, which didn't work out at that point is when we figured that payments is at the core of a business. If you're doing a business, there will be payments involved, right, no matter how big or how small. And this is kind of a pain point which has been fed by everyone. And we were having a chat before this right how square made it simpler for a cab operator legal, a simple a taxi driver or an ice cream vendor on the road to connect a car payments referred to do it online? There is no solution. Yeah, internationally, that would be something like a PayPal, but in India and again, I'm going back to 2011-2012. There was nothing right. You would have to if you're a physical retailer, then you could have a POS machine, but do it online. There was just no option. We said, you know, can we make this simple? And that was just a seed thought, right? Could we do it? And yeah, I mean, things happened, there was certain demands in adoption for it. And that's what we got here. So the idea is always how can we make it really simple, right? And payments, like I said, is at the core of every business, if you are able to do it, there will be millions of businesses out there, as long as you can give it to them in a reasonable, simple, affordable manner. As simple as that.
Krishna Jonnakadla 03:26
We'll come back to the two failures preceding Insta module. But let's get the scale aspect out of the way. In terms of the scale that you're delivering today, we can pack you have had right on the payments landscape on and the small and medium businesses and maybe single entrepreneurs that are operating out of forms. Talk about that scale. What does that look like today in terms of the impact you have delivered,
Akash Gehani 03:49
There different ways to look at impact. I always look at us older anecdotal pieces that we keep getting on a day to day basis. But yeah, just to just to give you a sheer sense of you know, What scale are we at? Right? And I don't think we had a great scale. I mean, there is V like the road is be too long, there is a lot more to do. But today, we will be half a million merchants on Instamojo. Right? This is of course, which has happened in the last six, seven years. What feel proud of is that we have acquired all of these merchants purely digitally, right? There is absolutely zero, you know, feed on street approach, if you call it and when he started out, that's been you know, one of the questions that we always faced bit internally or you know, from from others light beat and metal anyone has died. How can you acquire merchants and acquiring a small business is a challenge. It's a different ball game altogether. And I think that's something we've done very well right. So a million merchants on the platform today who are using Instant Video to collect payments to set up your online store to ship their products to their customers to do multiple things right essentially about growing their business online. And we are signing up more than a merchant a minute today, right? We get about 2000 merchants who convinced me every single day and bought the proud of is that we don't do too much older, like, we can essentially take a holiday for most of us, and, you know, turn off everything that we have. And this is still keep happening because we found the needle, whether they're merchants are like really happy and you know, they spread the word. So most of those, if it's digital, if it's organic, it's because they find something of value, which are referred to others. And, you know, which keeps getting the next set of, you know, businesses in the something really proud of, yeah, that's a scale, right. So you have a million merchants, they get started, they collect payments, they, you know, they collect loans from us to all these things. And, yeah, I mean, of course, that leads to like a million transactions that we look at on a monthly basis. So yeah, I think that's good numbers to look at what the scene is to guesstimate right about, if I go back say about, you know, 233 years or something right about about more than two thirds of our businesses, you know, merchants on Instamojo will be coming from the bigger cities by the tier one cities, typically to do that number has imported In fact, it's listed one third today, like a growing number of coming from the New York When tier three cities, this is something that you always hoping for, or just looking at, but it's just happened to us. So there are many of these things, right? I would say we've done a few right things here or there. But how do you plan for some of those, so you do the right things and things keep working on from there. So there's some of the trends that we see the number of women entrepreneurs, for example, or business women led businesses who've been signing up recently, that number seen as a proportion, that number has been increasing. I think at a total level, it's still very low. But again, that's the nature of demographics that we are in. But there's some of these very healthy trends. People coming from smaller cities, people coming from different backgrounds. I think that's something that we've seen happen, and most of it has been happening organically. So there are things which keep us excited, which keep us motivated for what's what's out there.
Krishna Jonnakadla 06:48
So the tier two and tier three. That's really interesting, because the common perception is that mobile users empowered upwardly mobile users are all stuck in the to One cities, which have a certain type of behavior, or to display a certain type of behavior, are you seeing analog, this behavior from users or merchants are signing up in tier two and tier three as well, or they are fundamentally different from what you see?
Akash Gehani 07:16
I won't think of fundamentally different, but there are certain patterns or certain behaviors which are there. So again, a very similar trend, which actually goes very, very line with this is till about three, four years back, right. And then he said that a majority of our merchants are coming from the biggest cities, the number of Muslims coming from a desktop was very high. It was close to 80%, about four or five years back today, that is, again, less than, like about a quarter. So three fourths of our businesses now come through mobile device, bat or mobile app, or, or or mobile web, right, but they're coming from mobile devices. And what we've seen is especially you know, over the last couple of years, many of them don't have a desktop because it gets started with the iPhone, and they use just the same particular device. So yeah, and I think if I, if I look at the numbers that are coming from teir two,three cities has been increasing, the numbers are coming from mobile phones is increasing. That's a very strong correlation between that. So in terms of how they have adopted the product, how they've been using it, I don't think there's too much of a difference there. In the sense, every businessmen are smart, they know what the business needs, and you give them certain say, you give them anything, right? They know how to make the most out of it. So the way they have adopted in use the product is very similar. For example, say you start collecting payments online, right? And someone uses very small brand name, so many people may not know offered, and especially when someone's money, right? There's always this trust factor. What we've seen is when someone gets started, you take your time to get on because you want to be very sure, you know what will make money come to me. So what we've seen is, for example, a business would take a payment of you know, 10 rupees, then they'll be they'll be The money goes to the bank account after this feel, oh, yeah, the money comes. But again, this slowly gets built up, right, you take a payment of 10 rupees, let's do a few more transactions. So there is this time period, which we said, you know what this is the amount of time it takes for the trust to be built for you to start trusting us with your money and with your business. And it takes like a few weeks for them to really ramp up before you actually have a sense of you know, how, or other you know, their entire business being used, on Instamojo or like, you know, for them to use online payments for it. So that's the behavior which has been fairly the same across the bigger cities or the smaller cities across a user who you know, who you would call a, maybe a tech savvy or an open consumer was visibly the you know, a non open consumer right so it's totally different. It just the idea that devices and all that matters, but of course, which has an impact on you know, how you design a product, how will the sensibilities are, does it work on mobile, nor does it work on say low bandwidth on on but the way they adopt, but all they do that your product has been fairly the same. It hasn't isn't too much of difference of that.
Krishna Jonnakadla 10:06
We do a little more of a deeper dive in a few minutes. So we'll come back to the couple of failures that you spoke about. And is it fair to assume that the three of you were together in those those two as well?
Akash Gehani 10:21
In one of them? Yes.
Krishna Jonnakadla 10:22
Okay. So how did the three of you happen to meet? How did you get together?
Akash Gehani 10:26
Oh, that's a that's an interesting story. Sanpath and I had earlier, work together. So somebody started a company back in 2009. And, you know, I have joined that company. And you know, we worked together for a short while, and the company got acquired after that, I moved out of it, but we stayed in touch, right? There's always this urge of, you're doing something independently after that, again, he stayed in touch, and you connected over the next, you know, a few months and years, and that's when they were a couple of ideas that we were dabbling with. And at this point, he was he was working somewhere. I was working somewhere. You know, this is gonna have problems like, you know, it's a gimme, but no get out of a comfort zone and try it out. So this is a good read a couple of things. And that's how we met, the the other founders are still gonna get there. So the interesting thing is, of course, we had a little background surprise me, but for the four of us, and primarily, the three of them, I called the other three, as you know, in those days are called the motivator added. These are, you know, some of the early adopters of Twitter in this country, right? So and if you go back to 2000 678, right when Twitter was still a new thing, and especially very nascent in India was a very small community, a very small number of users were using it, which led to a lot of this ball for me a lot of personal connections between them. So I would say Twitter is a place where essentially the team has come together. So that's what we knew each other. So we got together and when we met a couple of times Initially, I think we just hit it off. I think culturally, there was a lot of, I would say chemistry, they're not that there are a lot of similarities between us. I think we still have a lot of disagreements and we fight every second day. Right? But I think today there was only chemistry, right. And I think it was only there because if not, personally, we had seen each other on Twitter in common with each other over an extended period of time. So that kind of gave us an inside view of who this other person is, what the likes and dislikes are, you know, how they behave in general. Right. So I think, yeah, that helped. Ended up so yeah, I would totally credit it to Twitter. For for us coming together.
Krishna Jonnakadla 12:24
Perhaps is the first story of at least I've heard in my personal experience about a founding team coming together through bonhomie and camera tree that was forged on Twitter.
Akash Gehani 12:35
You could say that, I mean, I'm sure there are others. And nowadays, that is this is hashtag as well, which keeps going on, have a couple which met each other through Twitter or maybe some other, you know, network they got together. So for those that are young.
Krishna Jonnakadla 12:48
it's very simple. So Jack Dorsey in payments, counts, Twitter. And then you guys meet at Twitter and you guys found a payment company.
Akash Gehani 12:57
Oh Man! I never put those dots together.
Krishna Jonnakadla 13:01
So, between the three of you, how did you come to an agreement? In terms of roles, responsibilities, those initial days, equity, those are all very, very touchy sensitive topics. It is one thing to have personal friendships but a totally different thing to be in business. How did you get those elephants in the room addressed?
Akash Gehani 13:23
We just spoke about that. We had, of course, we had a few disagreements or other like, you know, very few debates and discussions around that. So how it worked is like for, for one of us, it was the first time in a start up for me, I had worked in the startup world. So I'd seen a bit of this, but like, you know, never found it well, right. So in some way, it was a fortunate experience, but I had seen a bit of it earlier, for some product was his second or third startup that no he was as part of the founding team. So of course, he had a good experience, right. So I think someone had a certain background which of course helped us set it up. So yeah, just came together with that. Those options. roles. There was never a discussion just naturally. So Aditya, he comes with a very strong tech background, very strong on technology data like you know, math and multiple. So he and of course after my knee or not, I would say coders as such right, not at all. So it was very clear that yeah, this is an episode media technology Sampath also have a very strong inclination and background info product and design France, of course, that's ready to go. And my interest always lied in, you know, going out talking to people on the business side hustling around, right, so I actually took up the sales operations and those pieces, I think it just flew. I think it's over time that we also figured that, you know, he also understands these things a little better, like, you know, he could take up these things as well. I have started developing over the years, a very strong interest, and I would say, maybe a bit of a skill on the product side of things. So over time, of course, we've done a bit of those things, but when he sent us absolutely zero, talk about that in just Bartow campus naturally, unfortunately, we are so well aligned on that front
Krishna Jonnakadla 15:00
So from the initial days, actually, let's go back to those two failures, What what were they about?
Akash Gehani 15:06
Okay, so I will focus on the second month because that's where we actually spend a lot of time. And that is the one where this team, you know, the beaver working together, right? So we did that for about almost a year about 10 months is what you're working on. So what we're trying to do is and this is back in 2011. So what we're trying to do is build a platform which helps a small business and again, the community was always towards small businesses, right? How can we have a small business advertise over a mobile platform, something like what in Imoby does for bigger brands, how can I help a smaller brand do it but in a very, very hyper local context. So that is what you're looking at. So you are in core Mongla as we are at this point, right? Maybe a business around you could see that you know, what, Krishna is over here, can I give some kind of like, you know, promotion to Krishna or some other way, get his get his attention. So he doing something on that front, what we realized is over the course of a year and you know, after Lot of trials and arrows and you know, speaking a lot of people building a lot of things is that no one was willing to buy it. We had a lot of businesses who signed up, because of course, it was free for them in the initial days, right. And this also gives value, but when the time came for them to open up the checkbook just wasn't happening. And I think over time, you figured that young people just be too early. I mean, this is back in the day that you know, Whatsapp wasn't on everyone's phone. Right. So it was still fairly early. If I didn't look at that. Could we do that today? Maybe, maybe not. But yeah, so I think we just spent a lot of time doing that. But I think what really helped this in those cannot months, right, especially going through once from one setback to the other is it really brought us closer as a team to any unanswered when we decided, Okay, let's wrap it up. It's not going anywhere. And again, then the question is, what do you do? Do you go back look for a job you work somewhere else? Or you know, do you want to try something else? I think at that point, we figured to do what we had a lot of fun doing it forgetting all the failures. Often doing it maybe if you find something which has a little more value, we should put our heads together and do it. So yeah I think those failures actually brought us together help us know each other better helped us develop ourselves you know, personally so I would look at that as a I mean, of course, only hypothetical character as a stepping stone, but I would really really call it that.
Krishna Jonnakadla 17:20
At what point of time did you make the jump to payments because your target segment didn't change while the hyper local aspect perhaps disappear from the thinking Yo, you were still focused on small and medium merchants? And how when did you make the jump from saying advertising to payments.
Akash Gehani 17:40
It happened because we actually felt that as a problem ourselves so during the course of you know this journey and even prior to this somebody used to take you to do this video interview is like like we have a podcast today used to do these you know, begin to use it a few folks and that he was to Monica discussing right, can you monetize this, and we forgot movie con Young, I would love for someone to pay for it to be able to watch this video, but how do we do that? How will I collect payments for it? And we know there is no option for this. And then we went back we did a bit of research, for example, I looked at a lot of Facebook pages. And those so many of these are, you know, the individuals you want to sell off maybe something secondhand, or maybe something that you're creating right and you only struggling with the like collecting payment or just difficult scenario. And back in Bombay, like this entire dibaba industry is a big investment above others, they go they deliver it's like a six sigma case study or you deliver the past everywhere, even over there if you felt and you must be spoke to some of them on a yacht, but I think the message is a challenge. You have to rely on a third party there are always delays cash, cash loss, and Isn't that good? Yeah, I think there is something of note over year if he can, if he can do that. The challenge was we had zero background was zero idea about how payments work. Right. So we actually went back to the drawing board. We did a lot of individually A lot of research, how do how does an online payment work? Like what is the role of visa? What is the role of MasterCard was the role of you know, every bank out there, obviously, technology work. So I think we spent a fair bit of time actually developing all of that, and learning all of that. But then we were convinced that there is something of, of note over here. And this is also the time and you could see VOB, a company like square and others were both picking up the casting demons, like I said, it's at the core of every business, you help them do in a better manner. That's a long term and it will be built over there.
Krishna Jonnakadla 19:28
So in some sense, when you saw these Facebook pages, we can possibly make the connection now, but they were not part of our marketplace, they were not part of because once you're part of a marketplace, things like logistics, payment systems, all of them come standard as part of the marketplace. When you're standalone. Let's say you're selling on Facebook, you are you're not part of a mature, possibly part of a network, but you're still not part of a marketplace. So therefore some of these aspects do make a huge difference and payment definitely makes a huge difference. That's a so you, in some sense made up for the lack that they had as independent sellers. And then service providers.
Akash Gehani 20:09
Exactly. So you look at the smaller businesses like there are. So one of the challenges that we are interchangeable when I was coaching all these faces, is your user who is this business was coming on a slow mo, and I usually do not have a very clear answer to that. Because they're just they're so diverse. They are so heterogeneous, there is not one clear category, right? Is it say like, you know, is it someone who's earning a fortune class? Or is it a mom and pop store? Or is it something else? No, that's very diverse. So similarly, when there is such a huge amount of diversity, a simple marketplace approach doesn't work like a marketplace, like say of Flipkart might work if you're selling appliances or electronics or mobile phones and but these are things which can be compared with each other. There are certain specifications and all right, but when you have millions of businesses, and so many different you know, options of products and services, we should provide you just Can't have a live in a marketplace to enable that. That's how it came out.
Krishna Jonnakadla 21:04
Effectively the long tail where eventually the long tail is going to be bigger than the body that it is attached to. That's that's how I foresee this. Yeah, because you have millions. And today while all the volume is coming from the biggies, that's what the pie looks like. But we all know this, or rather, students of economics know that when a country starts approaching middle income status, and when it explodes from middle income into the larger income status, that is when all these minor MSMEs, a lot of them transform into much bigger enterprises and that's when the explosion happens and the long tail which is actually 10 looks thing right now starts becoming much fatter and a much bigger deal.
Akash Gehani 21:43
I would say it's already fat called like the fat long day, I think India has always had that for various reasons like which we may not be able to delve into, but for various reasons India has always had I mean, globally, if you look at it, the maximum concentration of SMEs and on a per capita basis that we have a 16 million MSMEs in this country out of a population of 1.3 billion every quarter, like, if you look at the number ratio level is very high compared to most of the countries. So, yeah, I think we've always had that. And I mean, it could have various reasons, right. But so, this trend is only going to grow I think culturally, culturally, one is in India, you always have this mindset, right that I want to do something of my own or I want a side income or something, okay, then you always are inclined towards those things should doesn't matter if you are employed on or you always be looking to build your own business, if you have your business great, you would actually be delving into multiple things also, I think is going to continue and what we've seen over the past few years, which is what you know, the internet has helped in a big way. I think for the next little the years is gonna be a lot more decentralization. So a lot more power is going to be going or other you know, smaller bits economy lot more enabled a lot more empowered than a bigger business. I think that's what has happened right to the speed of internet and you know, Communication and all. So I think this is only going to grow today, about 27% plus of India's GDP is from the SMEs. So very healthy number. And if you tell me it's gonna grow, then yeah, I would want to spend another decade building solutions for them. Yes.
Krishna Jonnakadla 23:14
I want to build on a couple of things that you said, you already have million merchants on Instamojo. And you're, you're quite all of them digitally, let's put out on one side. And the other side is you do not have a defined particular user segment or a certain user type. The two actually don't make sense. In normal startup circles are taught, you would say you're building a product, because segment, these are the characteristics. These are the behaviors that they embody, and then keep building for that. And then an explosion happens in your case looks like that global has been turned on its head. For instance, if you look at the paper use case, the initial users on paypal of PayPal, we're all the super sellers on eBay, that was a beachhead segment that literally give Paper Paper around. And then eventually, you know, then the rest is history. But these are sort of opposing pieces of information. Talk to us about how you got to a million without having a defined sort of a merchant or a user in mind that that is interesting. Let's, let's go deeper on that one.
Akash Gehani 24:19
So I won't say there wasn't defined user in mind, or that, you know, we didn't have a mental persona for us or was for us today. It just not as traditionally defined as anyone else, right? Like, you would look at a certain category of businesses, right? So you look at the f&b space or the retail space or say travel space or something, right? I don't think we ever looked at it from that sense, not from a very vertically segregated approach, but more from the sense of are you one who's traditionally a small business or an upcoming business and you're just starting out maybe, but you want to have a presence online and is this this is the most likely person who doesn't want or cannot afford to spend a lot of time chasing, you know, the bigger company No cheese in sales website developer agency to build a website for them or chasing a bank able to collect payments they can't do it right can actually power them in a similar manner how the body oh well that's that's a story in itself but just in a in a short concise manner so when these hundred right and like I said as a team we came to get on Twitter I think that is also where our customers are coming from because I think we had a significant social presence over the with like a decent social apprentice awful lot of folks newest emanates your fault is also your early adopters, your tech savvy folks, you know maybe entrepreneurs and founders right? That term does get your attention and many of them also fit the persona of the kind of users that we wanted to get. So it just him know that if you look at what we built, right, this is your product was you share, you create a payment link. You share that link with your customer there you could SMS it, Whatsapp it or email it and they can make a payment you know that is a link. That link itself is vital because the moment you share it with 10 folks, they get to see it maybe out of those 10 Couple might make a payment to you. But there's also a chunk out of those 10, there would be another one or two folks who actually business of your own, who makes you know what, I could use this to collect money for my business, which is spread from there. And again, that's something you have no control of, which of course spread across multiple categories and multiple business areas. Yeah, I think we just banged on that. What health does is having those, call them? Early Adopters call them thought leaders, but folks, no significant say, or, you know, who are being looked upon by community, as an example, right? If a famous, you know, see an owner of a famous restaurant uses a product on the average restaurant owners are actually looking at this and saying, You know what, I can maybe adopt this. I think we just had the same effect where from a bunch of different areas, as far as we're using us, a lot of the others came came as a result of that. So I think Yeah, the very fact that he borrowed had had that inherent morality, which is a link that helped us a lot. The fact that we started with a set of influential folks that helped us a lot thought that was really designed to it, but it just flew out of you know, what we were and the kind of people we knew around us.
Krishna Jonnakadla 27:05
You're actually the second startup that we are. We've spoken to in the last one month, who's talked about Twitter being the source of its initial early adopters, Explorer Santosh Panda that will do it yourself. Even management platform almost has a very similar story about having entrepreneurs and all these even managers on Twitter. He was very active on Twitter, and his own whole user base coming out of it. So it's very fascinating. Yeah. So on that count, the initial days, how were the initial days, were they fragile? Was it a shaky start? Where any of your assumptions that you had about the market disprove? And how long did it take for you to say, we are out of the woods, your business is never out of the woods, there's always pressures will send pressures, but what are some of the assumptions? Did any of them get destroyed? Or the market or confirm by the market? And when you really start feeling that, yes, I think we have something. It took a long time.
Akash Gehani 28:08
I think in the earlier days, I didn't, at least for the first couple of years, while things kept growing, it just wasn't exciting enough, the bigger numbers wasn't born that grade, or the importance of percentage growth, it just wasn't exciting enough, they cannot be kept looking at by just not working, but it's just not working. Right. Maybe it's an assumption, right? We figured if we do this, and there's always this dilemma, right, when you're building a product, let's add these one or two features that will help us with a lot of traction. And you know what, you go back you build those things and start working out. And it's always that cycle, right? Yeah, maybe the market needs these things. Let's build that. And we kept going down, we can making those call them mistakes, or we just kept doing it personal. It just didn't work out. But over time, things kept falling into place. And there were few instances your other which really worked out for us, right. So I think it was maybe towards the end of 2013 as I think one of sickness, one of the most significant things happen, like, you know, where you got to eat picked up in one category of businesses. And you know, in a day's time, practically, we were doing more on a daily basis that what we did in like, you know, months prior, so we just do like this giant leap ones and the sock upload those leaves happening again. Like, you know, in a short enough time period, like in a couple of months, we saw a couple of those leaves happening again, and then just food after that. And yeah, I think that's optical VOB just need to keep going, you know, just looking at it hard enough. What does those segments or categories, I think one of them was the education space. And we figured that, you know, India is a land of or you know, a country where it's just too competitive. They're just too many exams out there. Right. You have right from a Civil Services to Medicare and management and engineering and whatnot, right? They just build too many of them. And there is this whole new emerging segment like today we talk about Ed Tech, right? A lot of companies coming in this education taxpayers where you're either conducting classes and courses online or you're selling content Online as opposed to the traditional coaching class approach. I think we saw the seeds of this maybe four five years back maybe even earlier than that right when a lot of these individual tutors and bloggers were out there trying to make a make a living with this and some of them have actually gone and we've seen this firsthand right they've gone from zero business I just someone out there who's trying to help out others to actually see that you know, this is something which I can make a business out of, and over time employing like you know, a team of 400 folks who's you know, building a certain products or in company owners we actually seen this journey no matter of few years. It's been really exciting when we look at powering some of these businesses right especially when you see them going from like I said, from a caterpillar to butterfly today.
Krishna Jonnakadla 30:43
So on that count, while million merchants is definitely certain scale and nowhere near scale on even compared to the vast universe that exists out there. There's There's no doubt about it. But along this journey has Have you seen sizes of businesses or types of users or merchants change in terms of, let's say, from casual tutors, who teach maybe 10 students, for example, if we take the example of education to complete, let's say, smaller Institute's come on board, because you are a little more known brand, a little bit of a trusted brand. So have you changed it seen change in the fundamental users and the merchants that have come on that are coming onto your platform?
Akash Gehani 31:27
Yes, we have. So we've seen that a lot of them have been growing over time, of course, and which has led to a lot of newer use cases come in. So when we started out to dinner, look at the kind of merchants and the businesses that are on board, many of them will once and some of them may not even knew right? They would have been existing for maybe a decade or decades prior. We never imagined a business like that could be there. But you see, you know what, it's actually a big thing. You look at for example, I remember I saw this one but in the merchant trying to sell videos there. Doing tutoring on Ms. Excellent. All right now of course, you know that MS Excel is one of those things and people really want to be trained about there are a lot of tutorials and you know, videos out there. But there is still someone who is not a big company at all, who has practically and no name is actually making a lot of money selling expensive courses on this, right. And a lot of that content is available for free if you go to YouTube, and many resources is just out there. But there are still people paying for it by doing it. I for one, I'm not convinced if I want to be paying you know thousands of rupees for this because I know this content is out there for free. But of course there is some value but there is that customer seeing right. And if there is something with your particular business has figured that you know what, I can provide something of value, which maybe a little bit or maybe way too much better than what is out there. And I can make you know, a decent enough whatever revenue out of this. So the many such cases that we've seen, right many of them have taken us for surprise like totally by surprise in whatever's happening in the social space, in the content space in terms of news content and you know, catering to smaller niches. Big news going on a killer. This is a lot of interesting stuff which is happening out there. I think one of the exciting parts of this journey is to be able to have a kind of a bird's eye view, you know what's happening in different parts of the country in different business categories. It's just just amazing.
Krishna Jonnakadla 33:14
How has the relationship or the Brotherhood amongst the founders itself? Have you seen that transform over the years as you've gone through maybe failures and successes, ups and downs? How has that changed? Has it stood the test of time? How has business impacted that? How has that impacted business?
Akash Gehani 33:33
I think the fact that we're still together means we stood a bit of a test of time, it hasn't. I would say it's not that you know, the number of arguments or fights that we used to have that has gone down or something, but it's definitely changed. So for the first you know, couple of years, you're still knowing each other better, right? But we build a strong and or, you know, you build a strong understanding of who the other person is, what their strengths are, and over time, and none of this happens subconsciously Right But I know for example what is what is it if there's you know, good areas or bad areas it or how is he gonna react in this like some today we actually don't talk as much we should talk a lot earlier. But today we don't talk in others because you know what's happening like I look at India and I know what's happening what's going through his pain obviously might have a support or even if sit on slack he has chatted with someone else just about the words he's used. I know what's going through his head and I know what to predict right? How is this thing going to shape up or the next day or weeks ahead right and you just assimilate that and you maybe just react or preempt but you know, prior to the act and ensure that you know what things are happening smoothly efficient, a good grade, if it's not, then you will have already stepped in before matters going out of hand. So I think we just know each other a lot better. That doesn't make us like each other anymore. I don't think that's ever gonna change. So, but yeah, you just know what to expect. And I you know that everyone's boundaries are from from a mental their emotional scale perspective in every which way, right? Today, it's very easy for me to know, you know what this guy's gonna report at this particular point, I can see that happening days, days in advance, not afterwards happened. So I think that's just something which only time can, I can tell.
Krishna Jonnakadla 35:15
So there's certain synchronicity and thinking and thoughts that is that has come about. That's, that's very interesting.
Akash Gehani 35:22
So, just to just to emphasize on this piece, and I'll give you an example. Right? So about a yo bad viewer, you hiring someone like someone at a leadership position, and I met this person and after I came back Of course, you know, this was kind of a role where all of us had to meet and you know, into the person right before we met I told these guys as I talked to one of them, you will not know like this person. I told the other one you're gonna like this person. And I made a note of you know, what is it specifically that you will lie you can work with he will not lie, you can all right, and I could just see how it's gonna be real. I knew in the next week, both of you might meet him and whatever will happen, right? I had made a note this is what's going to happen at the end. Are you going to hire this person or not? And on board basis and on I just had said, and of course, what I predicted happened. Exactly. So you know, and you know what the other person is gonna lie or dislike, you can hold your thinking.
Krishna Jonnakadla 36:10
That's fantastic. So on since we talked about hiring, let's talk about culture of it, what is Instamojo's work culture? What Is it like?
Akash Gehani 36:18
What is the culture? Like when we define what culture we have? Hell?
Krishna Jonnakadla 36:21
Let's say a set of beliefs values, not in the form of code, per se, but what are some of your core beliefs and values?
Akash Gehani 36:28
So yeah, I think that's something that we thought about right. And I think it's something which has to culture is something that we never get very seriously in this in the universe, we want to set a culture but something that you always very, very focused on like you want the right culture now how you define you don't know right? But over the last year or so, thinking I say what is it right, a certain culture which has been developed over year which is propagated which has been ingrained in most of us What is it? I think some of the things are, have fun, be very, very open. I think as a company, we are very open in the sense beautiful To be able to take a joke at your expense be able to make fun of yourself, be comfortable with your with yourself. I like I think all of us have a accent receive some oddities and all that we have our quirks, be comfortable with that accept that. I think if you don't have works, that's a problem. You should have quirks. And you should be comfortable with it, cutting that thing, being able to think long term. I think that's something that we've been, you know, talking a lot, right? Everything that we do has to have has to be good for us in the longer run. We're not going to take shortcuts, we're not going to do something which is going to help us with whatever certain goals for the next quarter, right? Does it help us for a year and two? Does it help us more than that? If it doesn't do it, right, we not used solver. So being able to take a bitter pill for the short term, but to do good for the longer right. I think that's part of our cultural values, being able to have fun being able to express yourself, I think if you can't express yourself, then there's a problem right? You should be able to and again, having said that, you have to be able to let other people or only express yourself right so that has to be done sorting candles, cabinetry, openness in a company, that's something which we are very, very rigid about Lego that should be there also a thing, we lived in a very uncertain times, right? Because the landscape has been changing v mo faster than at any other point in history, right? purely from a data ecosystem point of view, from an economic point of view from political in every every which way, right? Just a lot of uncertainty or OT, we have to be able to deal with that. So I think subconsciously, when I'm, when I'm talking to a person, or if I'm evaluating a person, is this person going to be good for this company? What we're looking at is good for the longer run? Is this person able to deal with uncertainty, right? Because things change and no matter how will be makeup plans and setting on December, we're going to be achieved in the next quarter, and so on and so forth. Things could change, edit, things do change more often than not, how do you believe that? I think some of these are part of part of what we are.
Krishna Jonnakadla 38:51
On the count of uncertainty. You are in the FinTech entertainment space is one of those spaces where with a piece of paper or a stroke of a When the government and policy making bodies can change and have drastically made changes, so how has How have you, but yet you are you're here, you continue to grow, you have scaled? How do you interpret that ecosystem, the policy making ecosystem have almost all changes been enabling and helping in nature. How has that made an impact?
Akash Gehani 39:24
There have been a lot of changes. And I think the good part is that from a policy side, the lot of attempts being done to foster a more digital who formerly Call me if I call it so I think the good part is there's a lot of thought and also actually on that front. At the same time, I think there has been a lot of maybe overthinking and overdoing things at times. There are many areas which I believe you should not be looking to set strict rules about or you know, trying to think that's what you want to see but you just should not be doing right. I strongly believe that the job of any government or regular It is to be one who sets the rules and would like to get out of the game you cannot be a player yourself. Let let others be the players, right. Someone is doing the point of acting, let them figure it out. But you said the rules you ensure things are being done. So I think the has been there, they've been the good and the bad. The good is, like I said, right, a lot of thought to words, improve improving things. But yeah, I think there's been a bit of overstepping in certain cases. But I think it's also part of the ecosystem maturing as search. And we've seen a lot of changes over the past few years, right? Like, just for example, right? This entire thing about how, say, you know, whatever happened on Facebook Did, did it have an impact on the US elections did it did it not? And in a matter of a year or two, we've seen a lot of policy changes across the board right in Singapore and multiple countries in Europe and India. So I think, as lawmakers, they're also breaking up or rather, trying to come to terms with the fast changing world out there. So don't always fault them for trying to think of getting things wrong by the same day beyond maybe take a step back.
Krishna Jonnakadla 41:04
So I am a big believer of existence of enabling infrastructure for any ecosystem to take root. So from that perspective in a wide variety of fields health care, if you take, for example, health care if you have medical records and lip service disposal and policies and payments, it enables a set of players to make certain assumptions and say, Hey, you know, we can create some infrastructure. When you guys started, the National payments Corporation of India was already established, they had already established the IMBS protocol, any of the and all of the settlement mechanisms have changed. And eventually the India stack, the Aadhar, KYC, the PAN all of this came into being if you had done the same thing without that infrastructure, would it still be as would you still have been able to do it with as much as Or do you think this infrastructure is something that has supported you in the room?
Akash Gehani 42:06
I don't know what ease Yeah, maybe things would have been a little more difficult. But we definitely would still have been able to grow. Maybe not a million maybe would have been said, 800,000 merchants, or what are the numbers, right, maybe a little less, but we still have been able to do, I think it's the entire all the things you mentioned, right, that's helped accelerate. And I call these things as, as the tiger happening via one of the boats in the tide, as a tide has raised its head out of us, but I think we have a lot of strong studying of boat we would have been able to sail through is to be able to do very well, but it's helped the cause further, it's helped accelerate things much better.
Krishna Jonnakadla 42:42
So one aspect about the building of the product per se, what sort of things have you done that your competition has not done? Or is not doing?
Akash Gehani 42:53
I think it's all about having a very clear focus into who you are who's what problem. I used to Me for whom are you solving? And which is where working for me, SMEs looking for small businesses. It is so, so critical. And it's also challenging. Well, I said, I'm billions of them. There are so scattered across the country. They are, again, so diverse and other business categories and in every other way, right, so there isn't a one size fits all approach, first of all, but when you are building for such a heterogeneous audience, as an example, it's not that there haven't been any companies trying to build on this space. There have been many in the past, right? But there are very few that you can still name who've been able to do great job of it. It's still very difficult. You look Look, look at it globally, right. Look at companies like called Shopify or PayPal or even square, right. If you look at an Indian parallel, who's done very well, in the small business space, normally company like Justin, we can make indiamart and they just IPO right few months back. Now you look at a company like them seeing Yamato Justin has been around for two decades, each of them right and it's required a lot of focus. A lot of I mean I can as you Good and bad, and but I'm sure there will be a lot of difficult times right in that journey, but it is a marathon approach. So I think the new inner space like this is very important to know, what is it? And how are you in it for the longer run or not go through certain spaces, see in the consumer space or many other spaces where you know, you can start and you will glow glow, like really big, like, you know, you can go from like, what all of it for example, and you go from zero to whatever, like a unicorn or some some level in a matter of 345 years, right. And you know, you will do it in that span of time. If it takes you a decade to get there, it's not going to work. But there are certain categories, but don't actually take that much time because it is not a special you can show exponential growth on your for like a good decade or so greater, it will require that slow, it's very important to know that you know, you are there right. And I think that is where most businesses in this space have failed. Or they essentially pivoted and you know, focus somewhere else, because you know that Yeah, you weren't getting maybe some better traction in some other adjacent or allied space. Maybe we're going to a different custom audience. But yeah, The moment you get distracted from this, you're out of the out of the game, right? So it's just being having that focus being very, very clear. No, this is what we want to do. And it's not that we haven't had distractions or questions or doubts about it. But I think we managed to stuck through that.
Krishna Jonnakadla 45:14
Let's talk about the funding journey. How did you start where you bootstrap? When did you raise your seed? Talk to us about that.
Akash Gehani 45:21
So the interesting thing is by I told you about the previous startup that we are trying to during that phase is when we went bankrupt, essentially, right, whatever little money or savings that we had were foreclosed on with that. And also during that time that we were in touch with a couple of you know, a few angels that you're looking to raise money for that and one of them was Rajan Anandan. So he showed a lot of interest in us and what you're doing, but he was never really convinced with what you're building, right? So he kept like, you know, he stayed in touch with us, but he never invested and you know, during that phase when we actually start working on that, and we are thinking Mr. Mojo and he started work on that is very good. He pinged us one day and was just chatting and asking also, how are things going? And we told him, we stopped working on that he was like we so play. So what happened? And then he told us that, you know, things weren't picking up and we moved to this. And then he said, You know, this sounds very interesting that we missed. And I think it was just like a simple chat. And of course, other time and we didn't even have like a live product or something. But he just showed because he saw that you this could lead to a big thing. So he just said, You know, I mean, I'm gonna create was even a bankrupt head, you're like, really thinking, what do we do? So? Yeah, that help. So I think that's how we got started. Of course, over time, we raised a seed round from from hundred startups. So you were one of the first companies that they invested in India, variation room ventures during that phase, right. So yeah, we raised a seed round from these guys post that we got a few institutional investors like Larry came in. We had a couple of Japanese investors who came in the last couple of years. So over the last seven years, if I call it about be Risa total of around 10 billion, which is not a lot of money, but It's been good for us to, you know, keep growing, keep building things and you know, keep building a market for this.
Krishna Jonnakadla 47:07
Are you profitable yet?
Akash Gehani 47:08
No, be having profitable in the past. And it's always that question of, you know what we want to invest in growth? Or do you want to be profitable, right? So we have and because we've been through a few ups and downs in this journey, right, you always have an eye towards that. And I think at any point of time, you're never more than, you know, six, seven months away from being profitable. So always keep an eye on that, you know, what, we don't want to be straying too far from that. So I think that's some kind of discipline and balance that we've, we've built over the years.
Krishna Jonnakadla 47:35
So that brings me to one question in in the Indian context, the way payments work, you have two factor authentication, you have most of the fraud liability is actually pick up picked up by the acquirer right or almost all of it, unless there are glaring mistakes committed by you know, a payment gateway or a payment service provider. Given that scenario, if all your all your acquisition has been All of your user acquisition has been digital. So where exactly is the focus, then? Is it about product building is? Is it about scaling, that's where all the money is going, just to kind of get a perspective on that.
Akash Gehani 48:13
The majority is always in building on products and different systems, right? So, when you said that, you know what, for example, India has two factor authentication. So what that has done is, it is taking us taking away one side of the picture, which is buyers, or end consumers trying to, you know, before the other party, right, so that's taken away, but that still doesn't solve the merchants who are committing fraud. And there's, of course, a whole lot of them out there. Right. And I think that is something which we are uniquely positioned to deal with and also to face as a challenge is because like I said, it'd be acquiring a couple of thousand questions every single day. Now, when you do that, how do you assess if a particular merchant is like what is what level of risk are we facing with that? How do we are certain that there is no physical interaction that we have with all of them right or with any of them for that matter, so far? They would be delighted if this company has to scale, right? If we have to look at if we look at a company like PayPal and Amazon have done a great job of it, what have they done really well what has held these companies together all these years, and they have a very strong risk and reward system, they're able to protect, identify, this can real time filter out all the bad guys, you know, that's what we have to build. And that's something which we have always focused on from day one, maybe a little earlier in life. And I think that's what has helped us or, you know, does good in the long run. So we have done a lot of people, a lot of algorithms. A lot of our AI actually works on that. But I'm watching signs up. And we have like, all these flags which get alerted, right, a bead at a mature level or at a transactional level over time. But what is the level of service what kind of reset you're facing on this particular business or transaction? So it's an ongoing effort. It's like a cat and mouse game, right? Because there will always be someone who's trying to take you for a ride. If one person does it looking at them. 10 other people automatically Amen. Right. So you're always trying to stay ahead of the game, you're always trying to improve this system. So yeah, this has been a lot of effort goes in. Of course, that verification has stemmed from one side of the picture but not on the other side. Right. And by said is we face is challenged unique needs, because at this scale that what ministers are doing it right, no one is looking at it from the sense of you know what, I'll be acquiring the merchant a minute and you know, helping them come online, that so far that your systems have to be strong enough, they have to be automated, and they have to be constantly improving. None of us go there.
Krishna Jonnakadla 50:29
Let's talk about the future. Where do you go from here? What I understand that there is still a big part of the pie that is still up for grabs, as far as India is concerned. But where do you go from here? What is the next few? What are the next few years from your vantage point look like?
Akash Gehani 50:45
So it's all about how do we help a business in their entire life cycle? How can I help those small businesses start the business to manage and grow their business over time, right? And when I look at that payments is just one part of it. It's just one small part of it, where we've done fairly well over the years and We've solved that problem connection idea. They'll always be improvements, we'll keep doing it better. But what are the other aspects of the journey? Right? So the way that we look at you know, three aspects of the journey one is commerce, one is payments, and one is credit. So a lot of effort is on the other two pillars of the business today, where we are building this entire suite of products on the commerce front, right? How do I have this business come online? How can I help you set up your own presence beat a website and online store or can help you sell your product? So the if you're selling carry helping shipping your products because again, as a small business, the the challenges that you face over the years, right? How can I help you manage your customers, engage with them do a better job of it? Can I help you market your products online for this entire piece in commerce, I can help you manage your presence and essentially grow that and also look at it peace, right? You're always I mean, there is no one of course who doesn't have a cash flow problem of who doesn't want to do managing a better manner. So how can I help you with cash flows can actually lend money to you which can help you grow your business better citizen model so they're doing over there. So it's been We're a little more than a year now that we launched our Instamojo capital, right that that part of the business. So it's we already done like upwards of 120 grows in the past one year of lending money to our merchants. And that's something which is scaling up really fast. So there's a lot of plans that we have a lot of products that we lined up in this particular space at the same time on the commerce one is a lot of things that we're doing. So yeah, it's about this entire journey of a business in helping you start managing grow your business over time. And that is where the core idea was that when the side of technology is going to come, and how can I help you adopt technology and grow your business leveraging that that's where we're focusing on .
Krishna Jonnakadla 52:36
So let's talk about the capital part. I've say this very vocally in forums and I've said it in the past as well that India's first one of the few countries in the world where an MSM means cost of capital is still upwards of 20%. Yes, so somewhere between 24 to 30% is where cost of capital is my uncle learns a small Finance Corporation which is 40 years old. I see that they're lending rates, they're in a tier two town, their lending rates 20 years ago, and today are still the same. But when you look at a different universe, you know, the rate for it being card, and all those big corporates, big companies get it down to maybe the high single digits or the close to the seven to eight digits depending on on the credit rating. But yet, we continue to see a high cost of capital, if you have to recover 20 upwards of 20%, just to keep servicing a certain book of business, there is only so much value you can do right. But yet, we don't see any innovation around them being able to build some sort of a credit profile, right? It is one thing for you guys to lend capital to them, but a totally different thing for you to create an ecosystem. Now, is there any thinking on those lines?
Akash Gehani 53:49
That are to be Vivian rethinking that entire approach from the ground up and we've tried, have you also you know, experimented and seen how how it works today, right? And also try to incorporate That show you say that you know what the cost of capital for a small business is very higher, it's about, say closer to 30%. Why is that the case is because solving a small business is challenging for a bank, because they won't have the same level of documentation and other things that you expect, or that your processes are geared for, you have a business which is worth a few hundred crores, who's gonna come to you? Yeah, they'll be able to finish all the documents you need, right? Whatever balance sheet and many other things as well, we just cannot give you that the amount of time it will take for them to be able to come up with this and then for your internal processes or systems to be able to underwrite This is very different. That's the reason why the costs are so high, right? Also, it's about acquiring those merchants and being able to recover that money from them. And the other side is when you put in that much effort, right as a band, right or legacy or traditional MBFC when you put in that much effort, you also want to give a loan which is like a big enough loan, where it leads people to be able to cover that but you know what, all business has a different need a business bigger business might have to come into 400 course, as small guy doesn't want that maybe he wants 50 lat maybe five lakh lakh He has a very different requirement. So you see him product approach doesn't work over there. And that is that is what we realized over the course of studying this doing a few experiments and building this out is the entire approach like we did for say payments has to be done in credit space as well I got to take it from ground up. And what we figured is there are many of the problems that you can actually build over there, which is what a lot of problem for them for example, I need not give a loan which is like you know, a settlement known which will like a separate tumor, which you take you grow your business, and then you repeat over time, right? Maybe something like 70 a lot of sense for these businesses who didn't expand on and it really worked very well right, because over the you're able to improve the experience be better. This is a product which is designed for the small business, right? Because you're not looking at giving out one crore in one shot to a much, much much like maybe a few bits of that and I can listen to this business. And again, they can recover that or they can pay it back in a matter of a week or a few weeks. So we thought of that and he said you know let's not take a typical product because there is a In vibe before 2010 for example there were just a few hundred on business another country would you be able to collect payments online and other a few millions are similar Palin never really sponsored on businesses who a banker and we should be able to give us don't know. But if you take the same approach and apply all your numbers are going to grow right and that is a value we add that up add from VISTA which is working very closely with them, which has a lot of understanding and insights for them as totally focused on building for them right. So it makes a lot of sense for me or for instead we just have business to give all the small Don't even say just say about say 10,000 rupees, right because our systems are geared for that I do not have to give a loan which is 10 lakh or 10 crow to be able to make good on the money front in at a small level I'm able to do that. That's what you get when you build from like, you know, very, very focused on physical building for me understanding what your problems are. And we try not to copy patient approach but essentially think about what is going to work for these businesses, what are their needs, that's how we looking at the integrity space and every other product that we build that right that's that's the core philosophy behind it.
Krishna Jonnakadla 57:00
So we we've discussed several things will discuss two more things International, is there an ambition to go international? And if then when you go international what is that journey? Or what is what are those thoughts like?.
Akash Gehani 57:14
There's definitely an ambition, I would say there is a rough cut of a plan in our, in our heads. It's not something as documented as we wanted to be. But we'll look at the International sometime towards the end of next year. So we should be doing that. Again. What specifically the geographies that's something that you know will out say spell out over time that definitely is a plan because and what we see that we don't see experiments in this in the past and in the very early days we will actually international as well. And when we realize that there's a big enough market let's focus on this today but let's focus on this for now. And when we've done a good job of it let's you know go out that's publicity not let's not look at international phone not that you're doing it let's focus on you in India. So don't do what you know. We've done this is working. And from a history you see the universe takes a few tweaks. A small business is a Small Business everywhere. So yes, we would be doing that over the course of the next year. And we would be going with with our entire product offering, which is on Commerce front, which is on the payments front. I don't know that up front. That's something we'll be doing.
Krishna Jonnakadla 58:11
And in closing, it's been almost a decade long journey. What were some of the low points? And what were some of the high points? And what were some of the surprises. for a lot of criticisms? low points, high points, surprises. So let's say personally for you, and maybe even as a team.
Akash Gehani 58:29
I think no points are always there were a few instances where like, you know, we were closer shutting down, but we didn't have any capital left in the bank already had like a very short term, very difficult low points.
Krishna Jonnakadla 58:39
How many times did that happen? Couple of times, like at least twice. Initial days? Later days?
Akash Gehani 58:44
Initial and leader so one of I mean, I think the first couple of years, always towards the edges itself, but they are around them. And back in 2017, like just a couple of years back we had a Yeah, I think you're like almost close to running out of capital, which is when we actually became profitable be loud enough time for ourselves. And I'm able to raise money after that. Right? So that experience has taught us on how can we actually be profitable and which has been disciplined and you can never stray too far from it. Because as a business when you are building it for the longer run, you cannot be relying on external capital all the time, right? So you always have to distribute your own hands. So that's what that experience daughter. So I think it's some of those times where of course call it low college challenging college difficult, right? But yeah, you also start questioning, I know what is it that you're doing right? Why are things working out of it is not working out. So those are the ones high points are having actually not a person who looks or who gets carried away with stuff, which I don't even look at anything as a high point as such. But I think on a day to day basis, you have those small moments of exuberance which come in at an every time there is a strong testimonial or a customer writes to her saying you know what, this is just life changing are you and this has really helped them in their business in XYZ ways. Some of those are hyperledger. They keep coming for cheerleader during Xena good or bad, bad times as well. As always calling Dream of smaller high points coming and I think that's what keeps us going. But in the on the phone, it's about dealing with people, right? Your merchants are people, your team, your employees, your partners, all of them are people, right? So most of our good and bad points are high and low points are always in those relationships. So far as a high fives are always looking at people around you, how will they are doing? Are they having fun on old records have a can always case that right? And we know you've seen that, you know, once there's someone in your team who's doing very well right in in whatever job they're doing, or in the possibility of doing certain things very well. That's something which is usually a high right. And that is also a strong focus culturally right? We have to be able to like as a community ultimately have to build and build inside or outside the community or building and we have to be able to foster each other and help achieve basically help grow each other ourselves. So there's a lot of those high points are seeing a lot of our employees seeing a lot of our merchants growing like this example. I give you a dis merchandise went from zero business to a few grows a lot of turnover. And annually right Yeah, man looking at that story or something, and it's not one isolated incident many of these. So some of them going well, what the high points have always been.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:01:12
Akash Gehani 1:01:14
The fact that we are still here. I think the faculty are still here is a surprise, but actually speak, you know, five years from now and will still be there. It won't be a surprise then because I think it's not that we figured out something we always figure things out. We're always learning from our own experiences and from others. But I think we've been able to build that tenacity, that resilience that we know what you're doing is great. And you know, we will struggle we will fail at a lot of things but we will get a longer run if we the hearts in the right place. So I think so priceless about that. Yeah, the fact that we've been able to tough it out the five fact that all of us still have all those debates, all those fights, but we do are able to, you know, smile, celebrate with each other. I think that's a surprise. So that is I think, okay, I'll tell you one of the other things as a, as a philosophy is what you know, by destroying this something we've been debating since the beginning, right? what we believe is inherently people are good, right? Every person wants to do good, that is circumstances by which you may or may not or you know, you may not do things which I know greater good, right. But there is a lot of goodness out there. And that's a hypothesis that he wanted to test because we knew that if there is not inherent goodness out there, we wouldn't be able to make a business. It's not going to work. And you've seen that right. So we have a lot of, like I said, a lot of merchants or others who've been trying to fraud the system will be in, you know, like a lot of shady and illegitimate stuff out there. But on the whole, the good is still much, much bigger, much greater. And while there was a belief that we had that hypothesis has been tested over the years in many, many different ways. So yeah, I think that's been a it's not a surprise, but that's definitely been a pleasant aspect aspects of being here.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:02:55
So Akash we've spoken for a little over an hour.
Akash Gehani 1:02:58
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:02:59
You are in the FinTech space, which usually is characterized by hyper valuations almost in the news almost on a regular basis, you guys have a terrific game going here. But I still see the same humility and the same kind of hunger that you see in a starting team. So kudos on that. It has been a pleasure chatting with you. And there are lots of amazing takeaways and aspects in here from you guys staying together empowering merchants that possibly had no clue how to collect an online payment and scaling to a million and it still feels like you're just getting started revisions to module of big success and an amazing future ahead.
Akash Gehani 1:03:39
Thanks. Thank you, Krishna. It's been a pleasure chatting with you.
Nida Sahar 1:03:44
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